A quick glance at the Rams (3-5-1), whom the Jets face Sunday in St. Louis :
1. Hey, they tied the 49ers on the road. That's saying something. They beat the Redskins, Cards and Seahawks. The Rams are 9-3 against the Jets, who haven't beaten them on the road since 1970. The last meeting was in 2008, a 47-3 rout by Brett Favre & Co.
2. Much of the focus this week will be on the former Jets, namely offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. He left the Jets after last season in what was described as a mutual parting. Other Jets on their roster are C Rob Turner, OT Wayne Hunter, QB Kellen Clemens, TE Matthew Mulligan and RB Terrance Ganaway. Turner is the only starter. Hunter, who ripped Jets fans after being traded in the preseason, started earlier in the season, but now he's back to his "jumbo" tight-end role.
3. Statistically, Schottenheimer's new offense is performing similarly to his old offense -- not too well. The Rams are ranked 24th in total offense and 28th in scoring offense, but they're in a rebuilding mode in the first year of the Jeff Fisher regime. The offensive line (25 sacks allowed) is struggling to protect Sam Bradford.
4. Bradford's No. 1 weapon is WR Danny Amendola. In fact, he completes 72.4 percent of his passes to Amendola, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His completion percentage to all other receivers is 59.6, with six interceptions.
5. Their leading rusher is the powerful Steven Jackson (504). They have a terrific change-of-pace back in rookie Daryl Richardson, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
6. Fisher runs the kind of defense that causes problems for the Jets. He believes in pressure and man-to-man coverage. The Rams have 26 sacks, tied for sixth in the league. Their leaders are Robert Quinn (8.5) and Chris Long (5).
St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher took a small jab at Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez on a conference call Wednesday, acknowledging that getting the ball to the receivers can be an issue for New York."So the (wide receivers) can make plays, and it's just a matter of getting the football to them," Fisher said.
The Jets' wide receivers have come under fire this year for failing to make big plays. That's part of the problem when a group is as raw as the Jets' unit, but the quarterback hasn't been helping them either.Sanchez is completing just 52 percent of his passes, a career low for the fourth-year player. While it could certainly be argued that his receivers aren't creating space for Sanchez to throw to them, the heat always falls on the quarterback for not making plays.While it's rare for an opposing coach to criticize a team it's playing in an upcoming week, Fisher seemed higher on the Jets' receivers than most."They're productive. Young, but productive with different types of abilities," said Fisher, who specifically praised Jeremy Kerley and rookie Stephen Hill. "You've got guys with a run-after-catch ability, you've got good route-runners, and I think that they've probably been unfairly criticized because this is a group that can make plays."
HERE'S SCHOTTY : The Jets will face former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer on Sunday. He now serves in that role for St. Louis.Schottenheimer served as the Jets' offensive coordinator from 2006-11 before leaving the team following the end of the last year's 8-8 campaign. His play-calling and offensive schemes came into question last season as it seemed Sanchez regressed."What I was excited about was that he was available," Fisher said about hiring Schottenheimer. "What happened in the past is the past. Brian's moved on. We've moved on together. We have a great staff that has a great working relationship and we expect to have a lot of success in the future."Fisher added: "He's done an outstanding job thus far. I was very excited when I found out that he was available. We hit the ground running. He's a big influence, I say, to this early turnaround of this football team."
WAYNE WATCH : The Jets will also get to see former right tackle Wayne Hunter, who they traded for tackle Jason Smith in August. Hunter drew the fans' ire for his poor play before the team sent him to St. Louis. He has been replaced by Austin Howard, and Smith is an extra tackle who plays sparingly.Hunter has played in seven games for St. Louis and has battled a back injury."This was a good deal for all four parties," Fisher said. "For Jason, for Wayne, for the Rams and the Jets. And that's why we did it."
Tim Tebow won't start on Sunday. And based on recent history, he probably won't be the decisive factor in whether the New York Jets win or lose in St. Louis.But as has been the case nearly every day since a trade with the Denver Broncos, he remains the top story in the green-clad football circus.In the midst of a three-game losing streak that's forged new performance lows since Rex Ryan's tenure began in 2009, the Jets' locker room has apparently devolved toward the same fractured mess that helped propel the plummet from 8-5 contender to 8-8 playoff miss just a year ago.A handful of anonymous players were quoted in a Wednesday story in the New York Daily News indicating a complete lack of faith in Tebow's prowess, with one player labeling him "terrible."
This all unfolds -- or unravels, if you prefer -- while starter Mark Sanchez has had myriad on-field struggles of his own, posting a league-worst 52.0 completion percentage through nine games. He's coming off a woeful 9-for-22, 124-yard performance in a 21-point loss last week at Seattle.His 70.9 passer rating is 30th in the NFL."I have got to make better decisions," he said. "Careless mistakes. Totally on me."Ryan, however, has shown no significant inclination toward making a QB change."With me, I will never waver," Ryan said."I am not going to make a decision to save my job. I am in it to win games. I'm not sitting back concentrating on how do I save my job. I am concentrating on how do we win."Still, while the loyalty to Sanchez has player support according to the newspaper, the coach is concerned with the acerbic way that support is being broadcast.He said the situation comprised the content of a team meeting this week."If you're not going to put your name to it, I think that's about as cowardly of a thing there is," Ryan said. "I don't want to get into specifics of what I said, but I did address it with our football team. If you're searching for things to try to drive a wedge through the team, my thing is, I believe in this team. I believe this team is (together), will continue to be and maybe even become tighter. I'm confident that will be the case."
Running back Shonn Greene was the most vocal Tebow supporter, saying "His mechanics, his throwing, (they don't look) like a normal NFL quarterback. But you know what? He's a football player. He makes stuff happen."Something's got to change. When you get to the point where you're 3-6, and losing and losing, a couple of guys are like, 'Oh, what would happen?' But guys at the same time have faith in Mark, so it's kind of an up-and-down thing."The quarterbacks, at least when microphones are close by, remain aligned."I always find the good and the positive in every situation," Tebow said. "The positive of this is to go and work a little harder and build better relationships with your teammates."Sanchez concurred."I've been in those shoes," he said. "I feel for Tim. You wake up the next day and you keep playing."The Rams, meanwhile, come off one of their most inspired efforts of the season, a duel with NFC West kingpin San Francisco that ended in an NFL rarity -- a 24-24 tie.And the deadlock came only after St. Louis lost a 10-point second-half lead."You know, we can be proud of the way we gave the effort," defensive end Chris Long said, "and like I said we went toe-to-toe with a team we have great respect for."
Quarterback Sam Bradford completed 26 of 39 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He's completed 66.9 percent over the last four games.Additionally, an overtime throw to Danny Amendola against the Niners might have set up a decisive touchdown, but it was negated by a penalty. Amendola had 11 catches for 102 yards after missing three games with injury."I think our offense as a whole has really made a lot of strides in the past couple weeks," Bradford said. "I think last week was evidence of what we're capable of when we don't shoot ourselves in the foot. We still made mistakes but for the most part I think that was our most complete game as an offense. We put up a lot of yards and a fair amount of points against a really good defense."The Jets are No. 6 in the NFL with just 203.8 passing yards allowed per game, but they're third from last among the 32 teams with a weekly opposition rushing clip of 145 yards -- a number that was boosted last week when Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and others rumbled for 174 yards.Against San Francisco, St. Louis's Steven Jackson had season-bests of 101 yards on 29 carries.The Rams have won nine of 12 all-time games between the teams and seven of the last eight, but New York was a 47-3 winner in the most recent game in November 2008 -- behind starting quarterback Brett Favre and coach Eric Mangini.Ryan has never faced St. Louis. Rams coach Jeff Fisher is 4-5 in nine career meetings with New York.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
For the Rams, a great way to add to an already nose-diving Jets offense would be to ratchet up the pressure on a struggling Sanchez.
St. Louis is near the middle of the pack -- 13th of 32 -- with 228.7 pass yards allowed per game, but its 26 sacks are tied for sixth and a young, aggressive defensive line might be ripe for more against a New York offensive line that's excellent in spots and suspect in others. St. Louis had five sacks last week against San Francisco.
For the Jets, each week of the losing streak brings another referendum on Ryan. The loss to the Patriots was allowable to many, but the subsequent home blowout by the Dolphins and a post-bye flameout against the Seahawks makes it appear that his messages simply aren't getting through once adversity arrives.The Rams game, at the start of the season, was marked as a likely win. But with the way things have gone since, it looks no better than a 50/50 proposition. In that case, the tie goes to the host.
In the latest episode of “As the Jets Turn,” running back Shonn Greene called for the benching of quarterback Mark Sanchez."You feel bad for Mark, but at the same time, you want to win games,” Greene told Yahoo! Sports. “We're not here to protect people's feelings. If you want to win games, you've got to try something. If somebody's not getting the job done, you see if somebody else can do it. It's the same with coaching, or any position. You don't mean to belittle someone or say, 'He (stinks).' That's just the harsh reality.”At the same time, reserve quarterback Tim Tebow was reacting to a ringing vote of “no confidence” unnamed teammates gave him in a New York Daily News story.
How did he react to reading that he was a “terrible” quarterback ?
“I think some frustration and I guess some sadness,” Tebow told reporters at the Jets practice facility Wednesday. “It's never fun to hear criticism, but at the same time, it's something I've always used as motivation, and you try to get stronger from it. That's how I approach it. I always find the good and the positive from every situation. The positive from this is (I've) got to work a little bit harder and improve and build better relationships with your teammates.”Greene, for one, doesn’t believe Tebow would be a terrible option – despite his errant throws on the practice field."He does (struggle)," Greene told Yahoo! Sports. “I'm not gonna lie. His mechanics, his throwing . . . not looking like a normal NFL quarterback. But you know what? He's a football player. He makes stuff happen.”Beleaguered coach Rex Ryan added to the fun by labeling the anonymous Tebow criticism as “cowardly.” Tipsheet can’t wait to see how all this hubbub translates on the field Sunday when the Jets face the Rams.Will the Jets play inspired football ? Or will they come up flat again, as they did in Seattle ?
The Big Apple pundits don’t seem optimistic :
Ian O’Connor, ESPN New York: “So some New York Jets think Tim Tebow is a sorry excuse for a quarterback, the same Tim Tebow who last year beat the sorry excuse for a contender known as the New York Jets. Anonymous teammates quoted in a Daily News report apparently believe the trade for Tebow -- again, the guy who beat them in Denver last November -- was dumber than Mike D'Antoni over Phil Jackson, dumber than Phil Simms' most recent evaluation of
Eli Manning, and dumber than the sex, lies and audiotape defining the Gen. Petraeus case. One Jet was quoted in the News report describing Tebow as ‘terrible.’ And if the world's most famous second-stringer had even one mean bone in his body, just like the rest of us, he would've come out swinging Wednesday at the offending phantoms in the locker room. He would've reminded everyone about his conquest of the Jets in 2011, the one that helped ruin the losers' season and helped notarize Tebow's standing as an amateur-hour passer with a magical endgame talent for rising above his own limitations.”
Tim Smith, New York Daily News: "It’s obvious that the Jets have had a talent drain, but what is more disturbing than Tebow’s teammates trashing him is that the front office has a problem recognizing top-shelf talent. The first-round picks on defense the last three years have not turned into dominant forces. The talent drain has dropped the Jets into a hole at 3-6. Whether they will be able to climb out with Sanchez manning the shovel is questionable. If this season ends in disaster, coaches and members of the front office will be looking for cover. It looks like the sides are already starting to line up. Whoever called the receivers ‘garbage’ has already thrown the first shot at the player personnel department."
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: “Like so many Jets head coaches before him, Rex Ryan stood at a podium in a crowded interview room yesterday and played the part of the unconcerned leader in a time of crisis. In an effort to refute a report quoting several anonymous Jets players and team ‘officials’ ripping Tim Tebow, Ryan did what Joe Walton, Bruce Coslet, Pete Carroll, Rich Kotite and even Bill Parcells, Herman Edwards and Eric Mangini all did in times like this: He dialed up the spin cycle so furiously it left you a bit confused and queasy. When it was over, like many of his predecessors, Ryan sounded like a man whistling past a graveyard in the dark — doing his best to be oblivious to the demons.”
Some thoughts on the wonderful world of sports :
■Turnovers, cold shooting, defensive breakdowns . . . SLU’s game against Santa Clara started bad and didn’t get better until it was much too late. Imagine what sort of practice Rick Majerus would have run in the wake of such a debacle.
■Interim coach Jim Crews has some work to do with point guard Kwamain Mitchell sidelined. A healthy Mitchell could have stabilized the Billikens Wednesday night by taking charge and getting the ball to the rim again and again.
■On the other hand, Santa Clara guard Kevin Foster would have worn out many teams with the way he played. He delivered a NBA audition reel.
■New Illinois basketball coach John Groce nailed an impressive first recruiting class, landing five solid recruiting filling each need on the court. He hit Chicago and he expanded the Illini’s recruiting range to the East Coast. Well-played.
■On Jeff Fisher’s watch, wayward rookies Janoris Jenkins and Chris Givens faced the media Wednesday and appeared contrite about their missteps. Accountability is a beautiful thing.
The Jets haven't won a football game in five weeks. Can you say "desperate" ?
They hope to snap a three-game losing streak Sunday against the Rams (3-5-1) at the Edward Jones Dome. It's the Schotty Bowl, as the Jets face their former offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer. The Rams have their own issues -- an 0-3-1 stretch -- but this is a rebuilding year for them. Lately, the Jets (3-6) have looked like one, too.
Kickoff is 1 p.m. What to watch for :
Midwest Jets : The spotlight will be on Schottenheimer, who spent six seasons with the Jets, the last three on Rex Ryan's staff. He can downplay it all he wants, but this game is special for him. The Rams' roster includes five former Jets -- starting C Rob Turner, OT Wayne Hunter, TE Matthew Mulligan, QB Kellen Clemens and RB Terrance Ganaway. Hunter, run out of New York during the preseason, is used as an extra blocker in jumbo packages. Mulligan plays about 20 snaps a game in a blocking role.
The Sanchez-Tebow soap opera : Mark Sanchez, who has four turnovers and 5.4 yards-per- attempt average over the last two games, needs to snap out of his funk. He probably won't lose his job this week -- it would be hard to switch to Tim Tebow on a short week for the Thanksgiving night game against the Patriots -- but there's no reason for another mistake-filled game. The Rams haven't forced a turnover since Week 5 and they've allowed 29 points per game over the last four. Look for Tebow to have an expanded role, as he did last week.
Under pressure : The Jets won't be a decent offense until they learn to handle extra pressure. No quarterback in the league gets blitzed more than Sanchez (5+ rushers on 39 percent of his dropbacks), and there have been too many protection breakdowns. Fortunately for the Jets, the Rams aren't a big blitzing team, but that could change.Don't be surprised to see Cortland Finnegan blitzing from the slot on third downs. Usually, the Rams rely on their front four, which has produced 19.5 of their 26 sacks. The Robert Quinn-D'Brickashaw Ferguson matchup is key.
Danny Boy : It's no secret where QB Sam Bradford likes to throw the ball -- WR Danny Amendola, whom the Jets describe as a faster version of Wes Welker. Bradford has completed 72 percent of his passes when targeting Amendola, who is deadly in the slot.That could be problematic for the Jets, who lost their slot corner -- Isaiah Trufant -- to a season-ending injury last week. Antonio Cromartie will cover Amendola on the outside, but not in the slot. That assignment could go to Ellis Lankster or maybe they will pull Aaron Berry out of moth balls.
Slammin Sammy : If there's one thing we know about the Rams, it's that they're not very good at protecting Bradford -- 25 sacks allowed. They've had a lot of moving parts on their offensive line. The Jets don't have a high regard for Turner, whom they let walk as a free agent without so much as an offer. Don't be surprised if they run some A-gap blitzes. The Jets are coming off one of their best pass-rushing days of the season, and they need to keep the heat on Bradford.